Need advice on drum kit recording gear


I am probably going to have to equip a jamming studio with drums recording gear soon. I somewhat trust my ears and theoretical know-how as to mic placement and settings, but am a little dry on what mics to choose.

Because the room isn’t a good drum room (low ceiling, relatively small), I am planning on focusing on close miking with only a pair of overheads for stereo width. For space considerations and convenience, I’d like to favor clamps over mic stands as much as possible.

Budget isn’t formally set yet, but I’m roughly aiming at mid-range prices. I am starting from scratch so I also have to purchase stands, cables and whatnot.

In addition I have an old Motu 896 AI with 8 mic inputs. I’m going to try to work with that but if things were not to turn good, do you have any recommandation for an AI that is suited to this particular task? Still aiming at mid-range.

Thanks a million!

What’s your idea of a mid-range price?

It would probably be better if you stated an overall budge, but make sure its an actual budget and not a hypothetical one that you idealize but aren’t sure you’d actually spend.

The reason is why is that tom mics show a diminishing return at a lower price point than overheads which are really the key to getting a meaningful drum sound. So if necessary, your’e better off with low end tom mics and decent overheads than you are putting mid level mics on everything.

If the drum set is even remotely decent, you want a 52 or a D112 inside that thing, but that’s really a higher end kick mic. So I think the best way to get advice is to toss a number out and let people juggle the options within the figure. I’ll give you some ballpark figures to get you started:

Low Teir
A box of Nady DMK’s will get you everything for $200. Pyle and CAD also make a sub $200 set of drum mics.

The next step up I think would be to loose the condenser mics in one of those cheapy packs and upgrade to a low end pair of SDC’s. Add another couple hundred dollars.

Mid teir
If you buy everything used and find good deals on it, you need about $700 to get going. This is what I would call mid-level. Pair of 81’s for $500, D112 for $150 and some OSP DL330s which are SM57 clones on everything else. But my idea of mid-tier (which is the bottom bucket bare minimum that I would personally use myself) may be different than other peoples idea of mid-tier.

Mid upper end
Here’s where you’re commercial end, but decent though not extravegant. Would probably mean beta 98s and 421’s on toms with Neumann overheads (or Blue in my case) and higher end room set. Can start experimenting with higher end kick mics like D12’s. Need about $3000 to go here if you buy all used and only catch sales.

Upper end…probably irrelevant to the discussion

If it were me, I would worry a little less about which mics and worry about placement. In a small room putting the mics out in front or, better yet, behind the drums set about 6 feet away will probably give you a better overhead sound than going over the drum set.

Here is what I like using on drums and its not too crazy expensive:

Kick in Shure Beta 52
Kick Out Yamaha subkick
Snare Top Sampson Q7
Snare Bottom Sampson Q7
Tom 1 top Sampson Q7
Tom 1 Bottom Cheap AT 2020
Floor Tom Top Sampson Q7
Floor Tom Bottom AT 2020
Overheads Shure sm-81’s or 57’s or cheap ribbons.
Room mics Cheap ribbons
HiHat. EV RE-20

You can ditch the Hi-hat, bottom tom mics, and sub kick. If you’re not getting great sounds there is no shame in using samples. In fact, at first, it makes it way easier.

What??? Haha! That’s a waste of an expensive mic!

I never track drums anymore, but if I did, my RE-20 would be on that floor tom a LONG before it would be placed on that Hi-Hat. If I had to have a hi-hat mic I’d swap it with a Q7. Unless you really like the frequency response or the rejection pattern on that RE-20, isn’t that a little bit overkill?

Thanks Jonathan and Paul999.

My idea of a mid-range price is $600-1000 for the mics only. What I don’t know is if I should favor a bundled mic set, which I expect to be a better deal, or buy the mics separately, which would probably allow me to get better OH mics. I’m also willing to look into used items but I’m not sure I’ll have enough time to find what I want.

I wasn’t planning on using any room mic at all, since I expect the room to sound really poorly. I actually haven’t visited it yet, only seen photos. It’s a basic, small jamming studio with tons of cheap acoustic foam everywhere. I was thinking close miking only and using post-recording processing (gate, reverb, sample triggering).

Something else: I’ve been advised to consider mic stands over clamps because these allow more flexibility for mic placement. Is placement an issue when using clamps?

I know it sounds crazy. I tried every mic I own on hi-hat and the RE-20 was the only thing that actually sounded good. I am not a fan of the Re-20 on floor tom or kick even though they are recommended for that most of the time. Q7’s are a pretty “cheap mic” but they are hyper cardioid and have a ton of rejection.

Tried an i5?

Not yet.

Why is this? Because of the extra distance? I’m recording some real drums tomorrow for a band and I’ve got almost no experience recording real drums. I had it all planned out in my head that I was gonna go over the drums but now I have to rethink that.

Exactly. The extra distance will sound better. Behind the drummer is brighter than in front. I often take my room mics from behind the drummer. The other reason to mic from behind the kit is that you get further away from reflective surfaces ie ceiling.

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Thanks. I will give that a try!

This! ^ ^ ^ 100%

I can’t overemphasize the importance of a well placed room mic.

If you only have one shot at getting these drums, I’d say go over the drums if you’re comfortable doing so. But if you have ANY extra mics or channels, also set up a room mic or multiple pairs of room mics. Use your monitors and trust your years. Your room mic does not have to be up high. It just needs distance and it needs to hear everything going on. If behind the kit (like paul suggested) doesn’t work, then what I do is just walk around until I hear a sweet spot and stick it there. Also, some guys point room mics at the ceilings or the back walls. I point all room mics directly at the kit.

If you dial a room mic in it will almost ALWAYS sound better than a fake algorithmic synthesized room sound or a convolution reverb.

Give it a shot…keep us posted on how that session goes!

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I do plan on getting a room mic or two in there somewhere, but behind the kit isn’t really an option the way they have it set up now. I plan on doing 2 overheads, kick, snare, tom’s and a room mic or two. I just got a roland octa capture so I have 8 channels available.

I would not rule out room mics. There are ways to work around a bad room through placement. You can for example us underheads instead of overheads. This can work very well in some spaces. I would always expect to use a set of “drum kit mics”, regardless of the room. As for clips verses stands, I use clips for the snare top, rack toms and floor toms. the hi-hat, overheads and underside of the snare are on stands. The kick mic is inside the shell and a sub-kic or LDC on the outside. If I use an LDC it is on a small stand. I don’t have placement issues with clamps. As long as you can get the mic 2" off the head at an angle that points it somewhere between the center and the rim of the drum you will find a sweet spot. I don’t know how many piece kit you are using but the 8 ch MOTU should work for top bottom of snare, rack, floor, hat and two over/underheads. If you need more channels you could add a preamp with ADAT out support to get an additional 8 channels.

As far as mics, for me I like ribbons or tube LDCs on overheads (plus the ribbons double as guitar cab mics and the tube LDC as vocal mics). Kick can be any of the $200 range kick mics ( Audix D6, ATD112, Shure Beta 52A) or if you are primarily rock, I like the Share Beta 91 inside.

So here are my picks assuming you go used with a few of them:

Snare top and bottom - Audix i5
Rack - Audix D2 or if you have the cash I use an Audio Technica ATM450
Floor - Audix D4
Kick - any of the above will work. They are all a like different and each has its fans and critics.
Overheads - Cascade Fathead Stereo pair
Hat - Like Paul I go a bit outside the box and use a Nuemann KSM105 on hat. But to keep it within budget there are a ton of good SDC that will work in the $100 to $150 range like Octavias or the new Golden Age Project FC4 which gives you interchangeable heads for variety.

I am also of the opinion that you should always look to buy mics that will do more than one source.

I have only heard Paul give this POV, and it seems like heresy, but I respect his opinion on it. I have yet to try it. I always like like the “alternative” point of view. :sunglasses:

This also seems to go against conventional wisdom, but I respect Paul’s opinion on it since he has lots of experience. I’m a bit perplexed as to how it is “brighter” though. :thinking: Doesn’t that depend on the room?

The “kits” come with clips, so in some ways that might limit you, but it may work out for you … you’ll just have to try it. Kits can be very inexpensive (for a no-name brand) or quite expensive. I do know that setting up tons of drum mics on stands can be a PITA.

I appreciate your kind words. Next time you have a drummer in a room playing a kit walk out front and listen and then walk behind the kit and listen. It is always brighter and clearer on the drummers’ side of the kit. Therefore you will get brighter drum sounds in your room mics that are on the drummers’ side of the kit compared to out front regardless of the room.

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That does make some sense, and I have to say - as a drummer in my teens and 20’s - I have spent a lot more hours behind a drum kit than recording or standing in front of one. The placement of drum head and cymbals might lend itself to your approach - in that they tend to point toward the drummer for ease of play - which also means the impact transients would be brightest in that direction. Also, assuming there is a wall of some sort behind the drummer (usually the case except in a huge room I think) the reflected transients will be more immediate and present.

My understanding from “recording school” is that you wanted the distant ambient sound of the room, and techniques suggested ranged from mics near the back wall of the room to high near the ceiling or low near the floor, but never behind the drum kit. Hence my surprise at your revolutionary approach.

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